The BBC World Service is coming to San Antonio and Texas Public Radio soon, producing the third part of a new series called “The Response: America’s Story.” They’re covering the first 100 days of the Trump presidency, and the San Antonio episode will be about immigration. The host for “The Response: America’s Story” is the BBC’s Shaimaa Khalil, and she joined Morning Show Host Norma Martinez from her home in London.
Shaimaa Khalil: Thank you, Norma, it’s lovely to be with you, and hello from unusually sunny London, I must tell you.
Norma Martinez: Why did the BBC and American Public Media choose San Antonio as the location for exploring the issue of immigration in the U.S.?
Shaimaa Khalil: Well, we thought San Antonio might be an ideal place really to get all the complexities of the immigration question, because as you can imagine, you know, it’s…there are so many sides to it and so many arguments to this issue. We know the relationship with Mexico and opinions about the border, and what to do about it, uh, are especially heartfelt and informed by personal experiences in Texas.
Your program, "The Response: America’s Story," is asking listeners to use their smart phones to answer a question and send their responses to the show. I’m sure that some of our listeners have heard some of those promos on our station. What question on immigration are you asking?
Shaimaa Khalil: Well, it’s a really simple one. We wanted to know if you’re not indigenous, why you, your parents, or your grandparents came to live in the United States.
Norma Martinez: And I know you’ve already received some responses, so what are you hearing?
Shaimaa Khalil: It’s been, it’s been quite eye-opening really. We’ve been impressed with the variety of stories from all over the United States. For example, here’s a clip from 27-year-old Pam, uh, Portocarrero, who was born in Lima, Peru. She said she moved to Utah with her mother and little sister when she was 10 years old. She said she’d always been a good student, she loved school. She had her heart set on attending the University of Utah.
CLIP: It was time to start college applications and scholarship applications, and that’s when I had sort of a rude awakening. Uh, every time I would look at an application, it said ‘Social Security Number.’ And I didn’t have one.
So we’ve heard from a number of contributors who are undocumented. We’ve also heard from dozens of Americans whose ancestors fled hardship in Europe in the 19th century. Contributors like Pamela Horter Moore, who lives in a small town near Pittsburgh. Now she says she loves history and genealogy, so she knows a lot about her family’s German heritage.
CLIP: First of all, my family did the proper and legal thing to get here. They were, uh, vetted at Ellis Island or Castle Gardens in New York City, they applied for citizenship at the proper time, you know, after they’d been here a period, and had made friends and employers who could vouch for them character-wise. There was not this idea that you could, that you could somehow exist apart from the society. In order to become an American, you had to assimilate.
Norma Martinez: So you have been talking to people from all over the country who’ve been contributing their stories, and now Texas is back in line. So what do Texans have to do now to contribute their stories?
Shaimaa Khalil: Well, send us a two minute recording of why you, your parents, or your grandparents came to live in the United States, and all you need is the voice recorder on your smart phone. And then email that file to us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Norma Martinez: Well, immigration is clearly a topic of interest on both sides of the Atlantic, and we look forward to having you here in our studios at Texas Public Radio so we can find out what you learn about immigration while in San Antonio.
Shaimaa Khalil: Thank you so much, Norma. It was a pleasure to be speaking to you, and I look forward to it as well.
You can send your contribution to “The Response: Americans Story” through this week. We’ll post information on how to contribute on our website. The program including the BBC’s visit to San Antonio will air later this month. On Wednesday, March 15, TPR and BBC will host a special reception to meet the host and producers of “The Response.” Producer Kevin Core will share audio excerpts from past programs, and host Shaimaa Khalil will talk about the reactions to the series they’re getting from America, as well as her own experience as a foreign correspondent for the BBC, and how this informs the docu-series. Support for this Texas Public Radio and BBC/Public Radio International partnership is sponsored in part by Cappy’s Restaurant, Sul Ross University, Texas Star Document Services, and the World Affairs Council of San Antonio.